Last week I was invited to breakfast with the Social Media Club of Kansas City (SMCKC). The group was formed in 2008 as a way to bring cohesive communication about Kansas City through social media. Each month they host a monthly breakfast for members and they asked me to give a presentation on what social media means to me, as Mayor of Kansas City, and how our city as a whole is utilizing it.
Last year, The City of Kansas City was named the 5th best social media governments in the country. We came in just behind San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and New York City. Not bad company to keep, but how did we get there? If you follow me on Twitter (@MayorSlyJames), then you already know how active I am there, but that’s only the beginning. I credit much of the work of the SMCKC with getting us on that list, and last Friday, I thanked them, and challenged them to help us get to number one.
This year, Kansas City is a Code for America City. They are building on our momentum because they recognize the opportunities that exist here. That is due in large part to the lessons we learned as a result of our partnership with SMCKC.
For starters, we learned that as a City, we should never be afraid to engage our residents in an effort to grow and improve. We also learned that when we engage our residents, we should also be willing to acknowledge what we don’t know, what we can improve and when we need to ask for help.
Of course we can’t talk about the success of social media without looking at how it impacted the GoogleFiber movement in our town. When Kansas City was named America’s Google Fiber City, we needed help. We knew that Internet speed of 100x faster than ever before were great, but we also knew they could be better if everyone had the chance to participate. When neighborhoods west of the urban core signed up in droves, SMCKC hit the streets. They knocked on doors, they made phone calls, and they were largely responsible for turning some of our neediest neighborhoods into Fiberhoods. They answered the call and as a result 90% of our City has Google Fiber.
But that’s only the beginning.
Last year we asked SMCKC for their help during the All Star Game. They came through in a HUGE way. Together we developed and implemented the Social Media Command Center to serve as a virtual concierge for guests during the game. They volunteered, they worked, they promoted and they were largely responsible for Kansas City hosting the best All Star Game in a century. And I didn’t say that. Major League Baseball did. Following the events of games and the tremendous rallying of our social media troops, Major League Baseball came to us and asked for help in replicating what we did so well. Everything from the Social Media Command Center to the street teams. They wanted to know about our concerted effort to get information out to visitors and guests. The news about what a tremendous city we are, and how socially connected we have become, made national news – and we couldn’t have done it without their help.
Social Media is becoming a huge piece of our community dialogue and in many ways, it is reshaping our City.
Without social media, there would be no streetcar. Just another example of how the conversation was ignited and the supporters, and even the naysayers, were brought together to have a conversation about where we are headed, and what mode of transportation we’ll use to get there.
We’re learning. We are using social media in ways we would have never thought of before. Residents can tweet me directly and they know, I will answer. They can tweet the City directly – @KCMO – and they get the solution they are looking for. They can even tweet an issue to @KCMO311 and have a problem solved.
We have found that the use of social media can shape a conversation and define an event. We know now that people feel better when they feel heard. It sounds simple, but we have very concrete examples of how it works.
Let’s look at the snow storms from earlier this year. We had about the same number of snow plows on the street. We followed the same snow policies that we always have. But we had a citizen satisfaction survey that hit right when snowmageddon did – and for the first time in the history of cities anywhere, our citizen satisfaction survey score on snow removal went from dissatisfied to satisfied. Yep, it got better. So what changed?
Simply put: the communication.
My office, the City of Kansas City and our City Manager Troy Shulte were constantly plugged into social media telling our residents exactly what to do. We urged them to stay home. We listened to the issues they were faced with and then, we acted on them. And through the City’s social media team, we came up with the snow-plow-tweet-along which placed our City Manager and members of his team on residential streets with their snow plows. Residents tweeted and Kansas City responded in a very hands-on way.
I assure you no mayor has ever received a bump in satisfaction ratings because of a massive snow storm or snow removal. But I did. And I attribute that to our use of social media and our dedication to meeting KC residents where they are.
If you’re on Facebook, you can communicate with me there, if you like to tweet – we can talk. Pick up the phone, visit my website, download my app, and stay up to date on everything we, as a city, are doing together.
Once again, I am grateful to the SMCKC for helping my office reach out to the residents of Kansas City. I know we are number one, and when we continue the conversation together, I have no doubt others will agree. There is no reason we can’t make it to the top of that list. Working together, we’ll get there.